In “The Oppositional Gaze” we are presented with the politics of the “gaze.” The gaze is an interesting topic, because it has been discussed by minorities—both women and African Americans. Laura Mulvey famously defined the “male gaze” in the 1970s when discussing the cinematic arts and the exploitation of women’s images on screen for the amusement of men. In “The Oppositional Gaze,” we receive a different take on the gaze, one that discusses it from the perspective of the spectator and from the standpoint of race and the standpoint of gender. What is interesting about it is the fact that athletes by their very nature are meant to be gazed upon, as the viewers are by definition spectators. Yet, the politics of the gaze do not condone certain types of staring, as the author describes in the opening of the essay.


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The gaze has power—it has authority. When one looks, one declares that one has the right to look. This is why slaves were punished for looking when they should not, as the author notes. But by the latter half of the 20th century, women and African Americans were beginning to be more emboldened, more assertive with their looks—more willing to gaze, even to gaze defiantly, and to criticize with their looks the world that was all around them: “Critical, interrogating black looks were mainly concerned with issues of race and racism, the way racial domination of blacks by whites overdetermined representation,” says the author (p. 118). However, with the inclusion of gender in the politics of the gaze, the issue of domination stopped being just about race and also became about gender as well. The problem is that mainstream feminist literature has done nothing to acknowledge “black female spectatorship” nor does it “even consider the possibility that women can construct an oppositional gaze via an understanding and awareness of the politics of race and racism” (p. 123). The gaze is not a one-way street but rather the means by which a two-way flow of communication is possible.


In “Analyzing Gender in Media Texts,” we are exposed to different theories and approaches to analyzing gender in various texts. We learn about content analysis, semiotics, ideological critique, discourse analysis and discourse theory. We also come to know about postmodernism, postcolonial theory and queer theory—all of which can help to explain how things are the way they are and why people communicate, act and express themselves through their actions in particular manners. For example, what can be learned from analyzing the number of times a female news interviewee is interrupted compared to the number of times a male news interviewee is interrupted? What does the media tell us about gender? These theoretical and methodological approaches can help us to understand what we are being told about gender by giving us a conceptual framework by which to approach the subject.


We can look for signs, signals, meaning (both connotative and denotative), ideology, and where authority and power lie when we analyze media representations of sex and gender and the politics that surround each. We can look at how language is used and how discourse is conducted to establish a sense of why relations are the way they are, why women get interrupted more than men, and why women are portrayed a certain way on screen. All of it is revealing and all of it tells us something about our culture if we are willing to listen. Philosophers and theorists like Foucault have discussed our world from the standpoint of postmodernism to help explain the significant movements in thought processes and expressions. Yet, culture continues to change and society continues to express the underlying ideas that make up its inherent mentality.
Works Cited

“Analyzing Gender in Media Texts.”


“The Oppositional Gaze.”